I Can Get It For You Wholesale – Original Broadway Cast Recording 1962
ACT I In New York, just south of Times Square, lies the teeming heart of the city, the Garment District, a hard, sweaty, get-rich-quick world of high fashion and low finagling. After the propulsive, pounding “Overture” the curtain rises on a snarled and snarling street scene clogged with boys pushing racks of dresses and furs, sweaters and skirts from one to the other of hundreds of dress firms that line the narrow byways. But this is 1937, and so amidst the delivery boys, pickets carry signs reading “We Want $15 a Week,” and labor organizers are signing up the shipping clerks. When some resist, a fistfight starts, dresses are destroyed and the non-union clerks who continue to work are denounced as “scabs.” The riot soon brings the cops. In the office of dress manufacturer Maurice Pulvermacher (Jack Kruschen), the bristling boss tries, between munching pills and calling his doctor, to cope with the chaos caused by the strike. Jangling phone calls bring still more jangled nerves as important customers cancel orders that have remained too long undelivered. To his harried secretary, Miss Marmelstein (Barbra Streisand) – a combination office manager, confidante, nurse and general factotum – he proclaims in apoplectic frustration that “I’m Not a Well Man.” Midst pressures and paralysis, one of the striking shipping clerks, brash young Harry Bogen (Elliott Gould), barges in. Distraught Pulvermacher is in no mood to arbitrate and is about to throw Bogen out, when Harry tells him he only wants to do him a favor. Settle the strike? No, better that that; tell the strikers to go jump in the lake and hire Harry’s company, The Needle Trades Delivery Service, to do his shipping for him. The reluctant Pulvermacher, over a barrel, signs the contract. Harry Bogen, ex-shipping clerk and betrayer of his co-workers, is on his way to parlaying his talents into a fortune. In the street, Harry jubilantly shows the signed contract to his partner, Tootsie Maltz (James Hickman). Tootsie reminds him that there is no such company as The Needle Trades Delivery Service. “So,” says Harry, “we’ll form one!” But that takes money, and Harry is broke. Unfazed, he knows he can talk someone into lending him some. He is tired of being poor, and this is his chance to go places. In “The Way Things Are” he pours forth his bitter, cynical philosophy. In this dog-eat-dog business, either “you’re the diner or the dinner.” If you are rich everyone knuckles under to you and nobody asks you how you got your money. Harry slithers up to the Bronx to visit his one-time girl friend, pretty Ruthie Rivkin (Marilyn Cooper). To Harry, Ruthie is only a reminder of the drab, underdog world which he wants to escape, but she loves him deeply. She has always hoped he would go to law school, but Harry is in a hurry. In “When Gemini Meets Capricorn” Ruthie tells him that their meeting just now was written in the stars. Her warmth, her love and faith in him are all the more touching, because she does not know that this meeting is not the result of astrology but of cold calculation. With wide-eyed seeming innocence, Harry has no trouble in conning Ruthie into lending him the money he needs. In the simple but homey kitchen of an apartment on the other side of the Bronx, Mrs. Bogen (Lillian Roth) in housedress and apron prepares dinner for her Harry. When he bursts in with the news, she can hardly believe that in one day he has gone from twelve-dollar-a-day shipping clerk to businessman. She is proud of her boy, and delighted with a new hat he has bought her. He sweeps her into a lilting dance and tells her there is nobody like his “Momma, Momma,” and he will not marry until he finds her equal. As his delivery service rapidly becomes a monopoly, his gifts to his mother become more lavish. In a montage of passing time he gives her a dress, coat and finally a fur stole – delivered to her together with the announcement that he is starting his own dress business. In the Club Riorhumba, Harry has made a date with Martha Mills (Sheree North), Broadway showgirl. Hotshot Harry bribes the bartender to page him and impress Martha. But she is not fooled by his ploy. Like Harry, she is on the make, harder than the diamonds that befriend her. He becomes ten thousand dollars richer when he sells out his share of the Delivery Service to the delighted Tootsie. Score one for Harry: he has sold Tootsie half of nothing since growing competitors in their once-monopolized field will soon make the business worthless. Martha’s view of Harry takes on a new color, the color of greenbacks, as she sees in him a kindred heel. To “The Sound of Money” Harry celebrates his doll and dollars, as they do a dance while a crystal ball revolves above them casting silver-dollar reflections on stage and audience. Bent on forming his own firm, Apex Modes, Inc., Harry capitalizes on Momma Bogen’s gemütlichkeit and gefilte fish to win over two of the best men in the business, Meyer Bushkin (Ken Le Roy), Pulvermacher’s chief dress designer, and Teddy Asch (Harold Lang), crackerjack salesman. In “Family Way” all is loving trust, with Harry, Teddy, Meyer and his wife Blanche (Bambi Linn), Harry’s mother and the ever-faithful Ruthie (the latter invited to the Bogen flat for the evening as window-dressing to impress the partners). A Cossack-like kazatske, traditional dance of joy at European celebrations, solemnizes the new partnership. Although Harry remains single and Ruthless, his marriage to money is now complete. When the men leave, Ruthie tells Mrs. Bogen she is sure Harry will propose now. But Momma warns Ruthie not to count on Harry “Too Soon.” Before Ruthie’s house, Harry fends off the broad hints about marriage which she conveys in “Who Knows?,” a description of her Mr. Right. Taking the shortest route to his heart, she tells him of the ten-thousand-dollar dowry her future husband will get from her father. But Harry, with Tootsie’s ten thousand safely in his hands, doesn’t need her money now, and incapable of giving her the love she needs, turns her down. The great day has arrived, the first showing of Apex Modes’ line of dresses to the big wholesale buyers. All is wild confusion-hem pressings, fittings, lunch orders. In the midst of it all is Miss Marmelstein, who has also left Pulvermacher for Harry Bogen. Momma Bogen is amazed at all this activity and Harry assures her they will soon be rich. Asch is appalled at Harry’s extravagance – quarts of expensive perfume to the buyers, cases of champagne. Every cent they own has been spent and they have yet to sell a dress! Harry calls Teddy and Meyer small-time penny-pinchers, afraid of money, while he, Harry, is having a romance with it. Underneath, however, he is as jittery as they. If the buyers are impressed, they are made; if not, they are ruined. Meyer and his wife Blanche have a romance too – with each other, after all their years of marriage. Swept along though they are by Bogen’s pursuit of the purse, within them is a calm center of love (“Have I Told You Lately?”). As the excitement and anticipation mount, the entire ensemble breaks into the “Ballad of the Garment Trade.” All hold their breath as the tournament of the poses starts in an elegant parade of models, while behind the scenes mayhem and suspense reign as the girls wriggle in and out of dresses. The star model is Harry’s showgirl doxie, Martha, on the payroll at three hundred dollars per week. When the buyers buy, Harry Bogen is made. So is Martha – in exchange for a diamond bracelet, she tosses him the key to her apartment. At last, Harry has all that money can buy. ACT II Harry has moved to the top of the world – a penthouse apartment. Hosting a lavish bar mitzvah for Blanche and Meyer’s son, Sheldon (Steve Curry), Harry gives the boy a check to cover his first year’s college tuition (“A Gift Today”). Teddy, however, soon discovers what we have known all along: that Harry is a crook. Not only has he used company funds for the party, but for the “generous” gift of money too. And there is also a little matter of Martha’s diamond bracelet. Harry, brazen as ever, blames Miss Marmelstein for drawing the checks on the company’s account instead of his own. His assurance that all will be corrected fails to impress Teddy, who tells Meyer that Harry is robbing them blind. Teddy resolves to check the books further. At the office, Miss Marmelstein, overworked and undervalued, laments her anonymity. Why doesn’t anyone call her Yetta or boobala or Passion Pie? Why must she always be merely “Miss Marmelstein”? Teddy, ashen with anger, has uncovered the full extent of Harry’s crookedness. “From now on,” he says, “I sign all the checks!” When gullible Meyer stands by Harry, Teddy quits the firm. Once more, Harry hears “The Sound of Money” as he tells Meyer how they can milk the company and put the money in another bank account. With Bogen’s usual calculation (“just to show my honesty”), he sees to it that the account will be in Meyer’s name. Naive and not-very-bright Meyer agrees. Things begin to close in. Miss Marmelstein warns Meyer that their accounts are in bad shape. Ruthie warns Harry that his creditors have hired the lawyer she now works for. She also tells him her boss has proposed to her (“A Funny Thing Happened”), but Harry is unmoved. With Harry sheared of his golden fleece, Martha Mills takes it on the lam, and finds greener pastures with Teddy Asch. At the Club Oasis, in the hard-driving dance duet, “What’s In It For Me?” they drive a hard bargain: Martha gets more diamonds, and Teddy joins her private key club. Bankruptcy! Apex Modes, Inc. is stripped to the walls, while Teddy contemplates Harry’s worthless IOU’s for his share of the business. Miss Marmelstein and the staff, still blinded by Harry’s charm, watch in agony as the workmen lug off dummies, tape-measures and cloth, dresses and desks (“What Are They Doing to Us Now?”) All injured innocence, Harry tells his mother about the bankruptcy and Meyer’s bank account. He is unrepentant as Meyer faces prison, but while Momma Bogen urges him to “Eat a Little Something,” she realizes her own guilt in taking Harry’s gifts. With his usual gall, Harry puts the bite on Pulvermacher for the money to save Meyer from prison. Not in order to ease his own non-existent conscience, mind you, but to please his mother. In his shekel-skin shell, Momma is his one Achilles’ heel, but he remains a heel nonetheless. Pulvermacher does more than lend him the money, he gives him a job. His present taken care of, tinhorn Harry plans for the future with a sour note. He accepts Ruthie’s proposal – and her father’s ten thousand dollars. – Curtis F. Brown I Can Get It for You Wholesale opened at the Shubert Theatre in New York City on March 22, 1962, after engagements in Philadelphia and Boston. It moved to The Broadway Theatre October 1, 1962, and played a total of 300 performances.
Miss Marmelstein: Barbra Streisand Maurice Pulvermacher: Jack Kruschen Harry Bogen: Elliott Gould Tootsie Maltz: James Hickman Ruthie Rivkin: Marilyn Cooper Mrs. Bogen: Lillian Roth Martha Mills: Sheree North Meyer Bushkin: Ken Le Roy Teddy Asch: Harold Lang Blanche Bushkin: Bambi Linn Sheldon Bushkin: Steve Curry Mitzi: Barbara Monte Mario: William Reilly Eddie: Edward Verso